Ramos Back in the Swing of Things

Catcher healthy after an injury ended his 2012 season early

April 3, 2013

Nationals catchers Wilson Ramos, left, and Kurt Suzuki share a laugh during spring training.

Being back on a baseball diamond has been a blessing for Wilson Ramos.

After all, the past two years have been surreal for Washington’s catcher. In 2011, when returning to his native country of Venezuela to play baseball during the offseason, Ramos was abducted at gunpoint and kidnapped for two days before authorities rescued him.

Against Cincinnati on May 12, 2012, Ramos turned around to chase a passed ball when his right knee buckled. An MRI later confirmed Ramos tore his ACL.

Through the adversity, Ramos never wavered. He was determined to return for this year’s opener against Miami. While warming up in the bullpen prior to the Nationals’ 2-0 win Monday, Ramos admitted he shed some tears. He was finally back.

“I feel like [Monday], that was my first game in the big leagues,” he said. “I had a lot of work to do this year.”

Ramos, 24, was told he’d start on opening day before Washington’s final exhibition against the New York Yankees last Friday. Manager Davey Johnson called Ramos to his side during batting practice and gave him the news.

“It was a big, big moment for me,” said Ramos, who is still expected to rotate games at catcher with Kurt Suzuki.

Though he wasn’t always in the clubhouse on game days last season, Ramos spent a lot of time preparing for Monday’s moment.

“Any time I went down to the weight room or training room he was always in there doing something, whether it be rehab or lifting,” pitcher Ross Detwiler said.

During the offseason, Ramos pledged to the training staff that he’d trim down to 235 pounds. Shortstop Ian Desmond was on hand when Ramos stepped on the scale for his final weigh-in. Sure enough, Ramos reached his goal.

“This is the first time he’s had an offseason to work out, get his body in shape,” Desmond said. “It’s up to us now to hold him accountable to that, to continue to work and not get complacent, so he can be this player we need throughout the season.”

Ramos went 1-for-2 and called a great game with Stephen Strasburg on the mound Monday.

“He is a big target,” said Strasburg, who threw 80 pitches in seven scoreless innings. “Receives really well. Once we get on the same page, it’s just like autopilot. Don’t go out there and overanalyze it or overthink. Just throw the pitch.”

It’s been a long time since Ramos could focus solely on playing the game he loves. With his right knee healed, he’s his former self again.

“I’m full strength right now,” Ramos said. “It feels 100 percent. That’s the most important thing.”

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Rudi Greenberg · April 3, 2013